The Journal Record
June 26, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma will become the 30th state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use.
State Question 788 has been one of the hottest topics of the election cycle. It would allow residents 18 and older to obtain medical marijuana licenses to treat any condition with a physician’s recommendation. With nearly 82 percent of precincts reporting, the issue passed 56 percent to 44 percent, according to preliminary results the Oklahoma Election Board posted on its website.
A grass-roots organization, Oklahomans for Health, lead the initiative to get the state question onto the ballot. Gov. Mary Fallin scheduled it for the primary election instead of the general, making SQ 788 the first to be on a ballot outside of a November election since 2005 and the first held during a primary since 2000.
Formal opposition didn’t form until about a month before the vote, but it came out strong, with groups spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on advertising. Opponents garnered support from some of the most prominent organizations in the business community, including the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and the Oklahoma State Medical Association.
Unlike many state questions, SQ 788 affects state statutes instead of the state constitution. Because of that distinction, lawmakers can go in and amend the medical marijuana law. Gov. Mary Fallin and top legislative officials said the state question’s passage would trigger a special session.
When the issue passed, many critics immediately began calling on officials to use their ability to change the law. The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association was one of many prominent industry organizations that fought against the measure because of the increased liability companies could face when workers have increased access to marijuana.
“The Oklahoma Oil and Gas Association opposed State Question 788 because it does not provide adequate protections for employers,” OKOGA President Chad Warmington wrote in a prepared statement. “This measure, as written, is especially dangerous for the oil and natural gas industry, where safety is paramount.”
Bud Scott is the executive director for New Health Solutions, a company that consults with corporations and small businesses interested in cultivating a marijuana business. He’s been one of the most vocal supporters of the measure. Oklahomans want access to medical marijuana and need an orderly and fairly regulated marketplace with responsible rules and consistent regulations, Scott wrote in a prepared statement.
“The medical cannabis industry is ready to work together with lawmakers, regulatory agencies, and the medical community at-large to develop those rules and regulations in a timely manner,” he wrote.
Several voters reported hiccups in their efforts to vote on SQ 788. Unlike general elections, primary elections require elections officials to dispense two separate ballots. One is based on the voter’s party affiliation, and the other contains nonpartisan issues such as state questions and judges’ elections. Voters took to social media to voice their concerns about poll operators forgetting to give out the nonpartisan ballot.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health is tasked with implementing rules to regulate the medical marijuana industry. It released draft rules last week, and officials plan to vote on those in July.